The Story of the Marysville Clampers - 1915
Our history of E Clampus Vitus continues this time with the story of the revival of interest around the turn of the Twentieth Century. All of this material comes from the work of Dave Dunlop, Chapter 10 member, who has given freely his permission to use it here. Thanks, Dave!
“The Noble Wheeze”, as E Clampus Vitus is known by California historians, was and is known for its irreverent spoofs and satire of other, more well known, fraternal organizations. The aims of Brotherhoods of this type were to provide mutual aid and protection in tough times and fun and diversion in good times. E Clampus Vitus, from its earliest times, achieved these aims in a most admirable way. While providing protection and solace to members and their families unobtainable elsewhere, the Clampers were often treated to riotous entertainment on those occasions when a new “sucker” showed up. We covered the initiation of Lord Sholto Douglas earlier in this series, and mentioned that of Ned Buntline, as told by Grand Clampatriarch Adam Lee Moore, last time.
After the main, easy deposits of gold were removed, and life had settled down somewhat, E Clampus Vitus lodges became fewer and very little mention of ECV can be found in newspapers of the day. Then, a somewhat strange turn of events unfolded in Yuba County.
On October 8th, 1915, the following notice appeared in the Marysville Evening Democrat:
ROAD AGENTS OR OTHER CRIMINALS ARE PREFERRED.
WANTED -- Several young men with extraordinary strong constitutions, no near relatives and with absolute disregard to what might happen to them. Men crossed in love, too much married, would-be suicides or professional road agents preferred risks. ADDRESS L. B. CROOK, FINANCIAL SECRETARY, CLAMPER’S CLUB, MARYSVILLE.
This article appeared the day after an unofficial meeting at which L. B. Crook was unanimously elected to bear the initial expenses of the organization. Art McRae, candidate for president, suggested to limit the future membership to those who had no family support. Acting Treasurer Arthur Brannan moved that the financial secretary be empowered to purchase six kegs of giant powder, a hundred pound box of dynamite, and a can of strychnine for initiation purposes. This motion was seconded by William Davies and carried.
Charles Wetmore, provisional vice president, was ordered to draw up a set of bylaws and to communicate with several accident insurance companies for the benefit of new members. Ike Erickson, legal advisor for the club, suggested that cremation be adopted as a means of disposing of candidates who did not successfully pass the initiation tests. His motion was overruled, as the majority of officers wished to patronize home industry. The Undertaker’s Journal was chosen as the official organ of the club.
On October 15, 1915, the new chapter’s officers were elected: L. B. Crook, president; Floyd Forbes, vice president; Art Brannan, master of arms; Chester Smith, treasurer; Art McRae, guardian of historical documents; Ike Erickson, outside sentinel; William Davies, inside sentinel; Dr. W. J. Guinan, reviving physician; Lee smith, financial secretary; C. P. Clement, corresponding secretary; Charles Wetmore, legal advisor; and Charles J. McCoy, guardian of the great seal.
On October 22, 1915, the newspaper reported the official gathering that night of E.C.V. (sic) for the purpose of swearing in the officers and members. They met at 1st and D in linen dusters and dark hats. President L. B. Crook had several letters from Clampers in various portions of the State who “intend to organize lodges as soon as the local order is formed.” The next day’s paper carried the story of the organization of the lodge.
“When the Marysville Band... whose members are also members of the lodge... started playing the dead march, and the red lights commenced burning forth, casting a sinister glow on the youthful features of Worthy President L. B. Crook, no less than 170 Clampers were in line. They followed Ye ancient Hewgag, that wonderful musical instrument, the gift of Pharaoh the 46 1/2th of Egypt to the first lodge of this ancient and honorable order.
“Supporting President Crook was grand treasurer Chester Smith who was guarded from danger of robbery by a band of stalwart Clampers, each armed with a concealed brick. On the other side of the President marched Charles A. Wetmore, legal advisor. He carried a book of statutes of California, a ham bone.. for he had no dinner... and a bottle of red ink. The other officers followed, headed by Grand High Priest Harry Hyde... who is also Mayor or something on the outside... bearing aloft his insignia of the officer of Great Pujolomonsum.
“On arriving at 6th and D Streets marching through the dense crowds of spectators and amidst the cheers of the multitudes, the Clampers took machines and were driven to the meeting place of the order. As a solemn oath was taken never to reveal this secret spot; the meeting place cannot be told. The oath was first given to the officers of the lodge who knelt in a circle around the ‘sacred rock’, the emblem of the order. Following this they went to the Moose Hall where the further ceremonies of the evening and the issuing of the password took place.
“The emblems of the office were presented to the worthy president and then the following ritual was subscribed to by the order: WE DO SOLEMNLY SWEAR AND PROMISE TO CHVBRNJBNY VJUGNH BJVN AND MGNF BHGINH GNHISZGFFX GNFSDBE AND SHD THE AJDNFH X.T AND TO XVCR THE HOLY XHFBVGEY AND NEVER, NEVER TO DIVULGE THIS SECRET. Old Clampers were called up for advice. Dr. H. H. Barr, Judge James Morrissey and others responded and told of the work and the good done to the community by the old order.”
We now skip some information about the Clampers’ participation in the Rice Carnival on October 28th, 1915, except to say that “the total attendance, paid admissions, to the Rice Carnival, was more than 1200, for nearly everyone who came was there for the purpose of seeing the Clampers.”
On November 5th, 1915, the E.C.V. (sic) participated in the Catholic Ladies’ Bazaar, in Marysville. The Clampers patronized the booths, took chances on everything going and had the time of their lives. “All a pretty girl had to do was to wave a ticket in front of man with a linen duster, and it was his.”
Then, on November 11, 1915, the Marysville Chapter of E.C.V. received the official document giving the local lodge sole right to exist: “The charter gives the local lodge the sole right to the name under the incorporation papers and if any other cities or towns wish to organize lodges of Clampers they will be required to secure sub-charters from the local lodge. The local lodge was incorporated as E. (sic) Clampus Vitus Lodge No. 1. It will not remain the only lodge long, as several other cities in the state intend to organize similar lodges and were waiting until they could secure a date to organize from the local order.”
An article in the Marysville Appeal Democrat, November 13, 1915:
“Blow the Horn and Bury the Hammer, will be the slogan of the local lodge of E.C.V. (sic) when the order takes charge of the celebration of the opening of the D Street Bridge, which will be held some time near the end of the month.
The slogan was invented by County Supervisor L. B. Crook, President of the Clampers, and who was appointed to take charge of the bridge opening celebration by both the Yuba County Supervisors and the city council of this city.
(Editor’s note: On November 30, subcommittees were formed to handle the celebration of the opening of the bridge. One of them is listed as W. M. Meek. Could this be our own Wm. B. Meek?)(Further reading of Yuga County history leads me to conclude that W. M. Meek was Bill Meek's nephew, William Mayo Meek, son of Bill's older brother, Jason R. Meek.)
“The Clampers intend to commence a novel system of advertising throughout the United States and members of the lodge predict that within a year everyone in the whole country will know of this section. Every Clamper is pledged to boost for Yuba and Sutter Counties and any member of the order caught knocking will be expelled from the order, which has a membership of more than 900.
“On December 22, 1915, the lodge received a telegram from Grass Valley and a check for $10.00 to pay the initiatory fee for four citizens of that town who hoped to form the nucleus for a branch lodge in that city. The applications were from B. A. Barton, Frank Bently, Bert Ashton and A. G. Doherty.”
In early January, 1916, the Marysville Evening Democrat reports on the plans of the local Clampers to charter Lodge No. 2 in Oroville, and also mentions that Woodland has lost out to Chico, in a bid to obtain a charter for Lodge no. 3. Plans are discussed for a chartered train trip to Oroville to take place on January 27th, 1916, to install the new Lodge. It was expected that the round trip fare would be eighty cents. Other items of business discussed at the Clamper’s regular Friday night meeting included: Plans for a Fourth of July Celebration in Marysville, and the giving of a benefit dance for the Marysville Band, “all the members of whom are member of the Clampers Lodge.” It was decided to allow the charter to remain open for thirty days more to allow members to come in for the initiation fee of $2.50, and those who “have not already become members should do so immediately or before the charter closes, because after that the initiation fee will be raised.” Mention is made of Sam Harrington, “a well known resident of this city, and a member of the Clampers lodge now, and in the years past when the old lodge was first organized.” Mr. Harrington spoke of the patriotism shown by the Clampers and he hoped he would see “the spirit of the Clampers progress and envelope (sic) the entire state of California.” He was greeted with cheers and the entire membership joined in singing The Star Spangled Banner.
Then, on January 28th, 1916, The Marysville Appeal Democrat told the story of the Oroville Initiation.
Five hundred cold Clampers stumbled out of the cars when the special train arrived at Oroville Thursday night, but the welcome they received from 500 more Clampers waiting for them soon thawed them out. The Oroville boy’s band headed the parade. The members of Oroville Lodge No. 2 followed. Then came the official Clampers Band, the only one in existence, followed by the officers and the Marysville Clampers. Grand President L. B. Crook and President-elect Frank Egan of Oroville marched in front and led the way accompanied by the standard-bearer.
“We entered a large exposition hall. Everything was in readiness for the installation of Oroville Lodge No. 2. First Installing Officer Edward Lewis formed a nominating committee of the Oroville Clampers. They gave him the list and Clampus Petrix Phil Divver and Clampus Vitrix Dick Barnett escorted the new officers to their seats as their names were called.”
President Frank A. Egan was the first to be led to the altar of sacrifice. His entrance was greeted by enthusiastic cheers. Then some dirty work was shown. B. B. Meek wanted J. H. Dungan elected high priest. Dungan said Meek should have the honor. The two candidates were looked over. Both were tall. Meek had the highest altitude and more of a hop pole frame than Dungan. He was unanimously chosen.
The photograph accompanying this article is a digital copy of a photographic copy of the original picture. It has been enhanced by digital means to remove dust spots, streaks, several tears and water stains present on the copy. It was given to Chapter Ten by XNGH Francis Rakow, who got it in a thrift shop years ago. It is fortunate that a copy of the original newspaper article about the 1915 Clampers in Marysville was provided by Clamper Dave Dunlop in his materials used to write the history article found here. Putting all the materials together provides an intriguing look into the workings of one of the first attempts to "revive" E Clampus Vitus from its demise at the turn of the 20th Century.